Sunday, June 27, 2010

Nicaragua: My New Home (heading into week 3)

Hello everyone!!

WEll, there is so much to tell. Ultimately I am great! Sadly, I don´t have very much time at the internet soI am going to try to outline the events that stand out most in my mind in an almost list form.

The people here continue to be amazing. I am developing really deep, strong friendships with every single person on the leadership team. I have both improved with my spanish skills and developed stronger nonverbal communication tactics to communicate with the local leaders. Sometimes it is still hard because I find myself wanting to say so much more than I am able to say, but most of the time we find a way to get it all out. The founder of Global Learning arrived on Thursday and she is just amazing. Her positive energy, motivation, and passion is so inspiring. She has creating an amazing program that brings together such amazing, loving, caring human beings together to cross social, economic and racial boundaries and form true human relationships.

Yesterday, we celebrated Jana (the founder)´s Birthday by going to the beach nearby. Now this beach is a huge touristy area known for its beauty. Well, due to the weather recently this has changed. The rain and winds has brought in a lot of trash coming in from the waves, so this once beautiful beach was covered in trash yesterday. But, we still had fun! I went swimming right before its started to downpour and a wave took my flip flop. Luckily however I found another flip washed up on the shore that fit my foot perfectly! We tried to wait out the rain but it did not stop so we headed home for a Without Talent Show.

One thing very unique about this program is that while we work extremely hard, we all laugh so much. In fact, I do not think that I have laughed this much is so long. I have found such a family here, both in the country itself and the team I have been working with. In the beginning I was dreaming of the days in Costa Rica when I would have 1 roommate instead of 3 in a larger room. Where we would have washing machines, 4 showers, running water, and all of the other things I thought were ¨necesities¨to actually be able to relax. Now, as my days in Nicaragua are coming to an end, these things no longer mean much to me. I have found that none of these extra ¨comforts¨are actually comforts and that in fact I can be relaxed, happy, content, comfortable, healthy, without any of these things. The thought of heading to Costa Rica on Friday, while it still excites me, also makes me very sad because I feel as if I am leaving another home and another family. But, I know that I find yet another one awaiting me in Costa Rica.

So, you can think of me covered in sweat, covered in dirt, covered in bug bites, and laughing so hard surrounded by amazing people in a wonderful country. I feel so lucky to be here but also have the amazing support I have at home.

Thank you all. I miss everyone but will see you very soon!

Friday, June 18, 2010

I´m HERE!!!

So, I made it here safe on the 15th! I am going to give a brief description of my warm welcoming and then describe the past few days. When I arrived in Managua, Nicaragua at the airport, the other leades were there waiting for me right outside of customs with a sign with my name on it! After another girl on my flight arrived we left for a bus to take us to San Jorge, Nicaragua (2.5 hours away). On the bus there were 4 volunteers from the U.S. and two from Nicaragua. So, to get to know each other we spoke both English and Spanish. When we finally arrived at the house there were more volunteers waiting for us. They all greeted us with hugs even though we had never met before, I could tell it was the right program for me!

There are about 15 of us living in a small house right now. We make up the leadership team for the programs in both Nicaragua and Costa Rica. About half of the volunteers are local, and half are from the U.S. So, everything we do is biligual, but the local people try to speak English and people like me try to speak Spanish as much as possible. I can tell already that my Spanish is improving because even when I am typing up this post, I am thinking in Spanish (or Spanglish I can't tell)and having to translate.

The house that we live in is very small in comparison to the houses in the U.S. There are four small bedrooms so there are about 3 or 4 people living in each room. There is one bathroom. We cook all of our meals in the small kitchen in the house, and spend most of our meetings on our patio. But, I am already learning that we do not need nearly as much as we think we need to survive in the States!

The town that we live in feel very safe. But, I definitely had and am still having culture shock. Some of the houses do not have floors, they are only dirt. Some of the houses do not have doors or windows. I woke up one morning to our neighbor slaughtering a pig (the pig was screaming). Chickens run through our yard and there are horses at our neighbors houses. Children use horse and carriages to get around. I could keepgoing, but it is very different! And, I{m loving it.

Because I am at theleadership training our days have been filled with meetings, but they are always fun! We dance a lot and tonight one of the locals are going to give us salsa and bachata lessons. Yesterday we went to Ometepe. It is the lake of Nicaragua (the second largest lake in North America I believe) and saw two tall volcanos.

Uh oh, I have to go, its time for dinner! I will write more later!

I am having a great time but miss you all SO MUCH!!!

Friday, June 4, 2010

About to Venture out into Global Learning

Helllooo from the USA!

I am currently preparing for my departure to Central America. This summer I will be going to Nicaragua and Costa Rica to work for a non-profit organization called Global Learning. I am able to participate in this program because I was awarded a $3,000 summer Stipend from Wheaton College to participate in an unpaid internship or volunteer work. In this first post I will explain Global Learning and then I will briefly outline what my time there will look like.

This program uses the transformative power of education as a tool for peace and justice. Global Learning volunteers teach and learn with approximately three thousand children annually in Costa Rica, Nicaragua and Mexico. GL facilitates student-centered education and international collaboration across divides of socio-economic class, nationality, gender, culture, religion, and race.

Global Learning reflects the communities it serves. At least 50% of GL volunteers are young leaders from program host communities in Latin America and more than 75% of GL volunteers are people of color. Most Global Learning volunteers are university students and many are the first individuals in their family to pursue higher education. The example and encouragement these path-setters offer children in communities with low educational attainment are invaluable.

So, first I will arrive in Nicaragua on June 15th to attending a leadership training until July 8th. I will be attending this leadership training because I will be a "Support Person" for the volunteer teaching team in Costa Rica. This means that I will assist the program coordinators in the planning of meetings, money management, keeping the pulse of the team, and acting as a liaison between the volunteers and program leaders. At this intense 18-day pre-program training I will learn the best practices in student-centered education, community organizing, and leadership.

After this 18-day training I will go to Costa Rica to begin teaching the children using my growing skills in Spanish at rural schools right outside of Liberia, Costa Rica. To prepare for this, each U.S. volunteer was asked to buy art materials to give to the schools to help enrich their programs. We will be teaching different subjects with materials that are otherwise unavailable to these schools. The majority of the students we will be teaching in Costa Rica are Nicaraguan immigrants who face racism and discrimination from the people of Costa Rica. What is incredible about this program is that the volunteers from Costa Rica cross these cultural barriers to help these children. And in this breaking down of barriers, all other volunteers and students benefit from this open-mindedness, compassion, and kindness.

After I teach in Costa Rica I will head back to Nicaragua for a post-program training from August 9th-13th. Then, from the 13th-20th I will do some traveling on my own or with people I meet from the group. And finally, on August 20th I will arrive back to the happy valley of Northampton, MA.

So as I prepare for this new adventure, I am finding myself very excited (while sometimes anxious and scared). I have never traveled on my own and been away from home for two months before. But I feel ready. I am very excited about this program because it is clear to me that they fully understand the ways in which to promote intercultural friendships, and through these friendships truly help young ones develop a sense of self and agency in the world. At times it might be hard but I know that what I will gain from this trip will be well worth the struggle, and hey, the struggle will teach me something too! So, even with my fears I am ready and excited. But I will miss everyone so much (one of my biggest fears is missing people too much :) .

Thank you for reading my blog and I will try to update it as much as possible throughout this journey. The next time you hear from me will be from Central America!

Adios todos!